Skip to content

Many people have noticed that marijuana (cannabis) has gotten stronger over the past decades, and now a study agrees. The THC in marijuana is what gives a person a "high", and those levels have really increased since 1970. That means what was smoked at Woodstock back in1969 was much milder than what is being smoked today.

An international group of researchers reviewed studies of THC and CBD concentrations in cannabis from 7 countries for the past 50 years. They found that THC (delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol) concentrations  increased steadily over the years, but the cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations remained stable. They attribute this to high-THC strains of cannabis being sold nowadays.

The researchers point out that studies show that: "Human laboratory studies show that THC administration causes dose‐dependent increases in intoxication, cognitive impairment, anxiety and psychotic‐like symptoms." Which means - be careful when smoking marijuana! It's strong!

By the way, there are many terms used to describe cannabis or marijuana nowadays, including weed, pot, and chronic.

From Science Daily: Cannabis strength soars over past half century

New research shows that over the past 50 years street cannabis across the world has become substantially stronger carrying an increased risk of harm.  ...continue reading "Marijuana Is Much Stronger These Days"

If you're a hunter or eat wild-caught game (deer, elk, moose, reindeer), then you should be concerned with chronic wasting disease (CWD). Chronic wasting disease is an always-fatal prion disease similar to "mad-cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle.

In chronic wasting disease there is a long incubation period, followed by the brain become progressively like a sponge - riddled with holes, along with deterioration in brain function, behavioral changes, and eventually death. A horrible slow death. There are no treatments or vaccines.

It turns out that chronic wasting disease is slowly spreading and infecting wild game across the United States (26 states) and 3 Canadian provinces. [Also detected in Finland, Norway, South Korea, and Sweden.] The concern is that this disease will jump to humans, especially in people who eat contaminated meat.

A research center monitoring the situation and publishing information and research on its site is CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease and Policy). Make sure to look at the Tweets (Twitter).

One scary thing about CWD is that once it gets into the soil, it stays there for years, and high heat, disinfectants, and radiation don't kill it. Yikes! Dr.Zabel at the Colorado State Univ. Prion Research Center suggested a few years ago that controlled burns (fires) of infected fields or areas could eliminate the prions left behind by infected animals (from animal mucus/saliva, urine, and feces, and decaying carcasses) on plants and soil.

An article with advice for how hunters can protect themselves, and a map of where CWD is found in the US.: 5 Ways Hunters Can Prevent Spreading Chronic Wasting Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several chronic wasting disease pages, including prevention and transmission.

Here is some of what CIDRAP says on their site about CWD:

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects several cervid species: deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer, and moose. CWD was first identified in 1967 in a captive mule deer living in a Colorado research facility. In 1981, CWD was detected for the first time in a wild cervid. Since these initial detections, CWD has been identified in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. It has also been detected in Finland, Norway, South Korea, and Sweden. ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Is Spreading In the United States"

Another health benefit of coffee! A study found that daily consumption of a few cups of coffee was associated with longer survival and a lower risk of cancer worsening in persons with metastatic colon cancer. These benefits held for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. This is a big deal because metastatic colon (colorectal) cancer only has a 5 year survival rate of 14%.

A group of researchers throughout the US found that in 1171 patients being treated for metastatic colorectal cancer, those who reported drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day were more likely to live longer, and had a longer time before their disease worsened - as compared to people who didn't drink coffee. And those drinking more than 4 cups a day (either decaf or regular) had even greater benefits.

Coffee's benefits may be due to its ability to decrease blood insulin levels (it increases insulin sensitivity of tissues), as well as the chemical compounds in coffee having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiangiogenic(anti-blood vessel growth in tumors) effects. It appears that many of the beneficial effects appear to be not from caffeine, but from the chemical compounds in coffee. [Note: avoid caffeinated coffee during pregnancy - then it is linked to health problems.]

By the way, there are many studies showing that colon cancer is linked to diet and lifestyle. Best is to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils). One especially eye-opening study compared the effects of an American high-fat, low fiber diet with a typical low-fat, high fiber diet of South Africa - and found dramatic changes in the colon (specifically in the colonic mucosa) from dietary changes in as little as 2 weeks. Their conclusion: Fiber feeds beneficial microbes in the gut, which results in beneficial changes in the gut (in the mucosa of the colon).

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Coffee associated with improved survival in metastatic colorectal cancer patients

In a large group of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, consumption of a few cups of coffee a day was associated with longer survival and a lower risk of the cancer worsening, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and other organizations report in a new study. ...continue reading "Drinking Coffee Appears To Be Beneficial For Those With Colon Cancer"

Word wildlife numbers are catastrophically plummeting - an average of 68% decline in almost 21,000 wildlife populations between 1970 and 2016 (46 years). Two thirds of all wildlife! This is the conclusion of the Living Planet Report 2020, a collaboration between World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International and the Zoological Society of London.

Humans are to blame for the decline.

This catastrophic decline is largely due to environmental destruction (such as deforestation, agricultural expansion, and the illegal wildlife trade), habitat loss, and degradation. The report includes a Living Planet Index (LPI) - which tracks trends in global wildlife abundance, as well as contributions from more than 125 experts from around the world.

The report goes on to say that the kinds of steep wildlife population decreases the Earth has seen in recent decades have not been seen for millions of years. It outlines steps that should be immediately taken to stop wildlife declines from progressing further and resulting in extinctions and destruction of ecosystems. One obvious step is stopping further habitat loss. But will this actually happen?

The United Nations warned this year: "Protecting biodiversity amounts to protecting humanity." WWF agrees: "... nature is unraveling and our planet is flashing red warning signs of systems failure."

From phys.org: World wildlife plummets more than two-thirds in 50 years: index

Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.  ...continue reading "We Are To Blame For the Loss of Two Thirds Of All Wildlife In the Last 50 Years"

It turns out that there is another serious source of air pollution in cities that is not usually mentioned - the emissions from roof and road asphalt, especially on hot and sunny days.

Yale University researchers found that asphalt emits a complex mixture of compounds, including hazardous pollutants. The emissions really increase as temperature increases, as well as exposure to solar radiation (sunlight).

The researchers estimate that urban areas are about 45%+ paved, and 20% are roofs. They stated that in a city such as Los Angeles, asphalt's potential to emit secondary organic aerosols is comparable to vehicles.

From Science Daily: Asphalt adds to air pollution, especially on hot, sunny days

Asphalt is a near-ubiquitous substance -- it's found in roads, on roofs and in driveways -- but its chemical emissions rarely figure into urban air quality management plans.  ...continue reading "Asphalt In City Streets and Roofs Emits Air Pollutants"

Covid-19 is a weird and scary virus. It turns out that while most people report none or minimal symptoms from a Covid-19 infection, there are also thousands of people reporting prolonged symptoms. Instead of being sick with Covid-19 for 2 weeks or so (the average for mild cases), they get sick with the viral infection and then it never seems to go away. There may be big ups and downs with a wide variety of serious symptoms (including neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, fevers, heart palpitations), but they are still sick weeks or months after the initial infection.

What is going on? People experiencing long-term Covid-19 symptoms refer to themselves as "long-haulers" or "long-termers". Covid-19 is a new and complex disease that seems to attack many organs of the body. It is such a new disease that much is still unknown, including why some people seem to experience Covid-19 symptoms for weeks or months after the initial infection. But some possibilities are emerging, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) . ME/CFS clusters have occurred in the past after many infectious outbreaks, including after the SARS epidemic (a similar coronavirus) of 2003.

Paul Garner, professor of infectious diseases at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, has documented his battle with long-term Covid-19 symptoms in the British Medical Journal blog (also June 23 follow-up), and the need for "pacing" during recovery to prevent relapses. [twitter.com/paulgarnerwoof?lang=en ]

There are support groups on Facebook such as Survivor Corps, Covid-19 Support Group (have it/had it), Long Covid Support Group, and Long Haul Covid Fighters. Fiona Lowenstein started a Covid-19 support group (Body Politic Covid-19 support group) for people living with the virus

Bottom line: Don't let others, including doctors, dismiss your symptoms. They are real. Read about the experiences of others and join support groups. The good news is that slowly, over time, most people are reporting improvement. Unfortunately, it will take time for public health officials, including the CDC, to catch up and acknowledge what people are already experiencing.

The following are some good articles to read. Start with Ed Yong's article in The Atlantic: Covid-19 Can Last for Several Months

A first person account of prolonged Covid-19 symptoms. Professor Paul Garner's original British Medical Journal (BMJ) piece for the BMJ blog: Paul Garner: For 7 weeks I have been through a roller coaster of ill health, extreme emotions, and utter exhaustion

From VOX, the site for explanatory journalism: The emerging long-term complications of Covid-19, explained

From VOX: My coronavirus survivor group is my most important medical support right now

The CDC view of ME/CFS (but with no mention of Covid-19). From the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)

1

Will 2020 be the warmest year on record? Early signs are suggesting that it might be - e.g. May was the warmest May globally, and the forecast is for a hotter than average summer. As month after month breaks temperature records, the question is - at what point will certain areas of the US (and other parts of the world) become unbearable? What can humans tolerate?

Temperatures are inching towards 120 degrees F in the summer in southwest United States, and higher elsewhere in the world. This is incredibly high! [For comparison, at 133 degrees Fahrenheit the coronavirus Covid-19 is killed off after 15 minutes.] While it varies for each species, the general rule for organisms is: "Above a certain temperature, a cell will collapse and die."

A Scientific American article wrote about humans: "So how does heat kill? When core body temperature rises too high, everything breaks down: The gut leaks toxins into the body, cells begin to die, and a devastating inflammatory response can occur."

There are stages to how the body responds: First heat exhaustion occurs. This can be reversed by moving the person to a cool location, loosening clothing, and applying cool, wet wash clothes to the body. But if the person does't get cooled off, then it advances to heat stroke. This is where their core body temperature rises above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C). Heat stroke can trigger seizures, convulsions, coma, and even death.

Another important point: humans can tolerate higher heat if the humidity is low. People cool off by sweating, and if the humidity is high, they can't. So keep all these things in mind when contemplating rising summer heat spells. What will humans eventually do as temperatures keep going up year after year? Mass migrations? Try to cope somehow?

Excerpts from Science News For Students: Explainer: How heat kills

The human body can’t handle excessive heat. The processes that keep us alive work best within a certain temperature window. That’s generally between about 36° and 37° Celsius (96.8° to 98.6° Fahrenheit), depending on the person.  ...continue reading "How Hot Is Too Hot For Humans?"

It turns out that it rains tons and tons of tiny pieces of plastic each year! These tiny pieces of plastic, called microplastics, are carried like dust in the wind and  air currents around the earth, and eventually come down like dust. Or particles from nearby urban areas can come down in rain, storms, and snow.

Researchers from a study looking at dust and rainwater samples in 11 western United States parks estimate that more than 1000 tons of this stuff fall each year just on this area alone. They estimate that 4% of the dust deposited on the land had microplastics in them, and nearly all samples had microplastics in them. The researchers found that an average of "132 plastics per square meter" was deposited each day. Yikes!

Where does it come from? Most of the microparticles were microfibers that came from synthetic textiles used for clothing (shed when worn or from washing, drying) and carpeting. But also industrial processes, outdoor equipment, industrial paints and coatings). Since plastics are persistant, they break up into little pieces over time and become microplastics.

Which means tons and tons more of these microplastics are falling on the rest of the United States and world, including us. How much are we breathing in? And what, if anything, is it doing to us?

So far studies have found microplastics in foods, drinking water, estimates of humans ingesting more than 74,000 microplastics each year, that we are breathing them in, and that they are found in human stool . Also, it is known that microplastics can accumulate and harm wildlife, and can move up the food chain.

It doesn't look good for us as plastic production (348 million metric tons of plastic produced worldwide in 2017) and plastics in the environment keep increasing. We need to address this problem. Now.

Excerpts from a good article on this study: A threat from above: Plastic rains down on US National Parks and Wilderness areas

Last August, scientists delivered the chilling news that microplastics suspended in the Earth's atmosphere were being deposited in remote areas of the Arctic and Europe. Now researchers report similar microplastic accumulation in iconic American protected areas including the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree.  ...continue reading "It’s Raining Microplastics"